May 5

Getting employees back to work post lockdown….


How you manage a return to work will depend on the degree of closure during the pandemic, but there will be some common themes:

There will be a requirement for some form of social distancing for some time to come. You will need to review your workplace and consider the following:

1. can staff maintain a 2m physical distance between each other?
2. how will you manage meetings, interviews and other interactions?
3. how will you manage communal areas: kitchens, canteens, toilets?

Some solutions may be as follows:

• all staff who can work from home will be expected to carry on doing so for a period of time as lockdown restrictions will be lifted gradually.
• phased return by groups of employees or by teams should be considered.
• trial a move to a smaller set of core hours so you can manage meetings and interactions while still offering flexibility for employees.
• stagger working hours so not all staff are in at the same time
• use technology to enhance the working-from-home experience
• manage the flow of people to avoid congregations
• revise seating plans
• limit time spent in conference rooms

As certain teams or parts of the business return to work detailed risk management will be necessary to safeguard health and minimise the risk of infection:

1. work in close collaboration with your health and safety teams wherever possible.
2. communicate to staff on a regular basis the practical measures you are taking to help reassure them that their health, well-being and safety is your top priority.
3. make sure employees are clear about what procedure they should follow if they begin to feel unwell, both in the workplace and at home.

Key protection and hygiene measures will continue to apply to minimise the spread of infection:

1. remind staff about regular and effective handwashing
2. continue to provide hand sanitiser
3. carry out a deep-clean before you reopen the workplace
4. ensure all phones/keyboards etc are wiped daily with anti-viral cleaner.
5. depending on your working environment you may need to consider providing additional PPE, including gloves and masks – if so training/briefing staff on their correct usage will be important.

Perceptions of safety are as important as the actual level of safety being provided in making sure staff feel comfortable returning to work:

1. adjust sickness policies to ensure rapid responses where required
2. clear communication around the H&S measures you are putting in place and why you are doing so is important
3. consult with staff to understand their concerns in returning to the workplace
4. a phased return to work ensures employees get to hear from their peers who have already been into work about the H&S measures in practice
5. prepare for the potential shut down of the office if an employee tests positive – a rapid exit plan is required in advance of bringing staff back to work

Staff who travel to clients or visit other company premises may also need additional equipment or briefing:

Remote meeting facilities and video-conferencing should be encouraged wherever possible to minimise the need for staff to travel and/or use public transport.

The risks to people’s health from this pandemic are psychological as well as physical as a result of the following and all need to be treated sensitively:

1. anxiety about the ongoing health crisis and fear of infection, as well social isolation due to the lockdown.
2. challenging domestic situations, such as juggling childcare or caring for a vulnerable relative, as well as financial worries if a partner has lost their income.
3. they may have been dealing with illness, or bereavement
4. they may have concerns over travelling to work on public transport.

It will be important to have a re-induction process for returning staff. Every manager should have a 1:1 with every employee with the focus on:

1. health, safety and wellbeing – be sensitive to concerns, give them time to air them and ask questions
2. inform them of any changes to services or procedures
3. inform them of changes to their duties or tasks
4. check they are comfortable coming to work, listen to concerns, be flexible where possible
5. allow continued home working or a phased return to work if domestic situations make travelling to work challenging

It is important that employees feel they are returning to an inclusive workplace. Managers need to be sensitive to underlying tensions that may have resulted from an unequal impact across the workforce and feel confident about tackling them:

1. different employees or individuals will have been affected in diverse ways depending on their job role or individual circumstances
2. some may have been furloughed on 80% or 100% of pay
3. others may have continued to work and may have had increased workloads

Post lockdown, when the time comes for companies to start bringing employees back into the workplace, businesses will come under intense scrutiny regarding how they manage the wellbeing of their staff. Employers will therefore have to carefully consider their reintroduction strategies.

For any help at all please contact or on +44(0)7917878384